Troubleshooting Guide and Frequently Asked Questions for Sourdough Bread (2023)

Basics + FAQ equipment and tools Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting Guide and Frequently Asked Questions for Sourdough Bread (1)

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After receiving many troubleshooting and baking questions, I've put together an extensive oneSourdough Bread Troubleshooting Guideto solve common problems.

This guide is aimedspecialfor troubleshooting sourdough bread and baking questions. If you're just starting out, check out mineTroubleshooting guide for sourdough startersfor more information.

Note:In addition to this guide, I highly recommend checking out mineYouTube step by step video, which provides visual cues and instructions for myRecipe for sourdough bread.

Here you will find answers to the following questions and much more:

  • How much sourdough starter should I use in my dough?
  • I can't find any bread flour. Can I substitute all-purpose flour?
  • What is your favorite baking dish?
  • Why are my loaves getting dense or sticky? How do I achieve an open crumb?
  • How can I prevent the bottom of my loaves from browning too quickly?

Note:If you have any other questions, please leave them in the comment section.

Jump to different sections:

Basics + FAQ equipment and tools Troubleshooting

FAQ about baking sourdough bread:

Q: How much sourdough starter should I use in my dough?

Each recipe will vary depending on technique and schedule, but a common baker's percentage for sourdough starter is 10% to 20% of the total flour weight.

However, this depends on other factorshigherAmounts of sourdough starter generally accelerate bulk fermentation andlowerAmounts of sourdough starter will slow down the main fermentation.

You can find out more about baker's percentages in myTroubleshooting guide for sourdough starters.

Q: I can't find bread flour. Can I substitute unbleached all-purpose flour in your recipe?

Yes, but you will need to make changes and adjustments to accommodate the differences. I highly recommend reading my guideBread flour vs. all-purpose flourfor detailed information and substitution guidelines.

In summary, unbleached all-purpose flour contains less protein than bread flour.Example: King Arthur All Purpose Flour contains 11.7% protein. King Arthur bread flour is 12.7%.Some brands of all-purpose flour aresignificantlower protein content (ranging between 9% and 11%). All these factors are important and affect the crumb structure etc.

(Video) Troubleshooting "Simple Sourdough" and FAQ

All-purpose flour due to the lower protein contentnotabsorb as much liquid as protein-rich bread flour and cannot produce as much gluten starch. If you substitute all-purpose flour in mineRecipe for sourdough bread, I recommend reducing the liquid intake to about 300 grams to be on the safe side.

Q: I can not findanyFlour. Do you have good resources?

With grocery stores and supermarkets struggling to keep up with demand and supply, many people struggle to find flour in supermarkets. This isn't because of flour shortages, but because of supply chain issues at big brand names.

If you're having trouble finding flour, I highly recommend finding a local mill near you (many ship!) or contacting your local bakery to see if you can buy some from them. You can also order larger quantities (5o pound bags) and set up a bulk shopping system with friends or neighbors in your area.

Here's a great resource of local grain mills in each state: ground flour can vary in protein content and extraction rate, and often ferments faster.

Q: Why do some recipes call for different blending and folding methods (stretch and fold, spiral fold, laminate, etc.)?

The good news? There are a million ways to bake sourdough bread, and everyone has their own preferences. The bad news? This can create a lot of confusion, especially when you're just starting out.

I recommend learning as much as you can about the different techniques, trying each method and finding out what works bestOfand the type of bread you want to bake.

If you want to delve deeper into these methods, I recommend Trevor Wilson'sOpen Crumb MasteryE-Book (not for beginners).

Q: How to add tension and firmness to the dough?

The trick to sourdough bread is creating itOnlyenough tension in your dough. Not so much that you outgas or impede its development, but not so little that your dough breaks down and fails to trap compressed air/gases generated during fermentation.

If you're struggling with fluffy or undeveloped dough, I highly recommend reducing the hydration (amount of water) until you're comfortable. Slowly increase to a higher moisture level as you continue to bake.

Q: How do you know when bulk fermentation is complete?

Bulk fermentation is the period between adding your starter (levain) to your dough and taking it out to shape. The duration of bulk fermentation depends on your ambient temperature, dough temperature, starter strength and quantity, and other variables.

In my opinion, judging bulk fermentation time is one of themostdifficult parts when baking sourdough bread. Depending on the type of flour, the dough develops differently (Is your bread whole grain? or from white flour), strength of the sourdough starter, and how to handle and develop the dough.

For myRecipe for sourdough breadAndOlive sourdough, I force mass fermentationfarsince it has a very brief rest (often not resting at all) before transitioning to averycold fridge. I'm generally looking for a 50% increase in volume, signs of good fermentation on the surface (varying size bubbles), and a dough that looks lively and aerated (the dough wobbles if you gently shake the bowl).

Read more about under-gardening vs. over-gardening dough below.

(Video) How to Make BETTER Sourdough Bread - Troubleshooting, FAQs, Sourdough Experiment

Q: Do I need to let my dough rest in the fridge before baking?

No. You can let your dough rise at room temperature before baking. I prefer to delay my dough in the fridge overnight before baking for several reasons:

  1. This final cold lag of the dough helps develop more complex flavors in your final loaf.
  2. Cold baking generally results in significantly better oven springiness and crust development.
  3. Cold dough ismucheasier to handle, transfer and score.
Troubleshooting Guide and Frequently Asked Questions for Sourdough Bread (2)
Troubleshooting Guide and Frequently Asked Questions for Sourdough Bread (3)

Questions about the bread maker:

Q: What baking pan do you use for baking?offense?

When I first started baking I used a regular 5.5 quart Dutch Oven for all my bread baking jobs.

As of January 2020 I bake all my bread in mineChallenger-Brotpfanne(generously given to me).The unique shape and design allows you to create batards (oval -my favorite bread pan), half-baguettes and boules (rounds).

It is aunbelievableBaking vessel due to its design and ease of use. Breads baked in myChallenger panhave better oven spring, color development and crust structure.

It makes transferring dough significantly safer, easier and avoids wasting parchment paper. If you're serious about baking bread, it's a great investment. The lower griddle can also be used for focaccia and other baked goods or similar to a cast iron skillet.

Q: Can I still make sourdough if I don't have a Dutch Oven, Combo, or Challenger Skillet?

Yes, but steam it isveryimportant for baking sourdough bread and you will most likely have to resort to various tools (lava rocks, hot water roasting pan, etc.) as alternatives.

Dutch oven, combination cooker and CoChallenger-Brotpfanneallow you to cover and easily trap the steam in the first phase of baking (similar to a bakery deck oven). This helps prevent your dough crust from setting too quickly, which can hinder proper oven spring and crust development.

Q: I don't own a Banneton. What should I use instead?

You don't need Banneton to make sourdough bread, but it's a very useful tool (it helps draw moisture out of the dough while it's resting, resulting in better crust development) and a relatively cheap investment if you want to delve into sourdough Baking bread.

If you don't own a banneton, you can use a bowl (Be sure to use one that matches the recommended Banneton size in shape and dimensions!) lined with well dusted kitchen linen.

Q: How can I score my dough if I don't have lame bread?

A bread lame is simply a tool that holds a curved or straight razor blade. It allows you to score bread quickly and easily (allowing your bread to properly expand and release steam during baking).

If you don't own lame bread, the next best thing is a sharp razor blade. The sharper the blade and cleaner the kerfs, the better results you will see. Cold delayed dough ismucheasier to score than room temperature dough.

(Video) 15 Mistakes Most Beginner Sourdough Bakers Make

You can also use a sharp knife or kitchen scissors, but they're not ideal and won't achieve similar results. If you're playing with more complicated scores or want to achieve nice ears, I recommend investing in onegood bread lame. It makes the difference!

Troubleshooting Guide and Frequently Asked Questions for Sourdough Bread (4)

Troubleshooting Questions:

Q: I don't own a baking scale. Can you provide volume information for your prescription?

Unfortunately, not. Volume measurements are generally very inaccurate, but are particularly problematic for sourdough bread orSourdough PizzaBake. There's no way to accurately measure sourdough starter with cups.

Metric weights are standard in bread baking and give the best and most consistent results. They also allow you to easily scale up or down any recipe (or adjust the baker's percentages).Simple kitchen scalecost less than $10 and are a must-have tool!

Q: My dough is taking forever to increase in volume and is still very dense and lifeless at the end of the recommended main proofing time.

It sounds like your dough and/or ambient temperature is very cold, or you're working with a weak, underactive sourdough starter.

Yeast and bacteria prefer warmer temperatures. Try placing your batter in a warmer area of ​​your kitchen (75F-80F is ideal) - monitor your final batter temperature to keep it as consistent as possible - or consider investing in onebread box.

Q: My dough is too fluffy and not developing good firmness. Help!

If your dough isn't developing enough firmness, it could be due to poor mixing or dough development from bulk fermentation. Add an extra set or two of stretch and pleats and see if that helps, or cut back on your next loaf.

When working with new flours or types of flour, I prefer to hold back some water during autolysis and see how the dough develops (Can I stretch it very thin with my fingers without tearing it?).

When I'm sure the dough can handle more water, I add some of it when I incorporate my starter.

Q: My dough was a sloppy mess after bulk fermentation and couldn't be shaped. Help!

It is extremely difficult to diagnose sourdough bread troubleshooting problems without knowing more details about your specific situation.Which recipe are you following? Which flour do you use? How old is your sourdough starter? What is your ambient temperature in the kitchen etc.?

Sourdough recipes with higher moisture content can inherently be difficult to handle if you are unfamiliar with them. See my for more tips on preforming and moldingYoutube video step by step.

If your dough develops well during bulk fermentation and turns into a sloppy, crumbling mess when shaped, that's a sign of too much risen dough (Is your kitchen very hot? Have you extended the bulk fermentation too far? do you use freshly ground flour?)or possibly collapsed dough structure due to poor development.

Substantially over-risen dough is impossible to shape. It's best to turn it into a well-oiled sheet pan and bake it right away. Try again and watch your bulk fermentation carefully. Let the dough rule!

(Video) Troubleshooting Your New Sourdough Starter

Q: My loaves are dense and gummy or have huge air pockets surrounded by a firm crumb. Why is this happening?

Extremely dense, gummy loaves, or loaves with some massive air pockets surrounded by a firm, dense crumb, are the result of under-risen dough. This is a very common problem among beginners.

This is often the result of a weak or underactive sourdough starter (be sure to read mineTroubleshooting guide for sourdough startersfor more details)or undeveloped dough. Try building up your starting strength for another week, or extend the bulk fermentation on your next loaf, or find a warmer spot in your kitchen!

Keep in mind that cold ambient temperatures can also cause problems. Try placing your batter in a warmer area of ​​your kitchen (75F-80F is ideal) or consider investing in onebread box.

Q: How do I achieve an even, open crumb structure?

Please keep in mind that there are many different types of bread and breadcrumb preferences are subjective! Different techniques lead to different results. Find out what kind of breadOfwant to do.

However, if you want to achieve open, delicate crumbs, I recommend Trevor Wilson'sOpen Crumb MasteryE-Book (not for beginners).

Q: Why aren't my ears or scores opening well?

Protruding bread ears and a well-developed score are due to a combination of factors: proper fermentation and dough development and tension, forming and scoring ability/technique, and oven temperature/steam. Owning a good quality and sharpbread lameis also important.

Regardless of how you score your dough, under-risen dough will result in dull nicks and pale crusts. Dough that is too risen has better color but lacks firmness to aid in scoring.

Also, ears don't develop as well if you don't prick deep enough or at the right angle. As you can see, many variables are involved. Keep practicing and keep at it. The more you bake, the better baker you become!

Q: The bottom of my loaves darkens too quickly. Is there a way to prevent this when baking?

First and foremost, I recommend a separate oven thermometer to make sure your oven is well calibrated (ovens can be off by as much as 25 degrees) and adjust temperatures as needed.

If this is still a problem, try placing a baking sheet (or two stacked baking sheets) under your baking dish to add extra insulation. Do not preheat baking trays! Rapidly darkening of the bread base and pale crust can also be an indication of poor fermentation.

Q: My Dutch Oven cannot be preheated to 500°F. Can I reduce the baking temperatures?

Some brands of Dutch Oven should not be preheated to high temperatures due to the material of their knobs (or other factors). Additionally, some home ovens (particularly European models) do not offer high temperature ranges.

Try experimenting and preheating at a lower temperature (450°F), or invest in a stainless steel replacement knob for your slow cooker if the brand offers that option. However, most high-quality Dutch ovens are safe at these temperaturesPlease check the brand manufacturer's instructions before proceeding with temperature recommendations.

(Video) What to do when your SOURDOUGH is TERRIBLE: your questions, my answers.

Troubleshooting Guide and Frequently Asked Questions for Sourdough Bread (5)

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out my other resources on how to bake sourdough bread:

This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission from items you purchase at no additional cost to you. Please read minePrivacy Policyfor more informations.


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